CNR express car: Nibbled

Well, that’s an unusual headline, but that’s exactly what I did.

As previously noted, I’m turning a model of an SP baggage car into a reasonable stand-in model of a CNR express car, in the 8775-8799 series. The most noticeable difference – and therefore the one I simply must address – is the doors. The SP car has two 5′ doors on each side, whereas the CNR car has a 6′ door and a pair of doors in an 8′ opening. The doors on the CNR car are also taller, reaching almost to the roof. (I provided more detail about the doors in a previous posting.)

I disassembled my SP model, and opened up new spaces for the doors:

CNR baggage car - door openings
(Modified car, with new door openings)

Southern Pacific SP brass baggage car
(Stock SP car from South Wind Models)

The brass walls are fairly thin on this car, so to do this work I simply marked the size of the new openings, then removed material with a “nibbler” – a tool used in electronics:

(Check your local electronics supplier, or even your hobby shop, for one of these)

As the name implies, it nibbles away thin brass, PC board materials, styrene, you name it. (It’s a great tool for making openings in walls for window castings.) I’m really glad I have one in my toolbox. Using the nibbler is like playing The Price Is Right: I tried to get as close to the line as I could without going over. I then finished the openings with a good mill file.

The other big change I have to make is the roof vents. As the photos above suggest, I’ve removed the SP vents and will be replacing them. Here’s a close-up of the roof, with vents gone:

CNR baggage car - roof vents removed

Removing them was easy: I held the car body shell with an oven mitt, and used a micro-torch to melt the solder from the inside of the roof. A few passes with the torch was all it took. I would heat a post, set down the torch, then grab the vent with a pair of pliers and pull it out of the roof. I still have to fill the holes, and add new, longer rain strips to the roof over the larger openings.

I guess I’m committed to the project now.

Next up: I’ll build some new doors for the express car.

8 thoughts on “CNR express car: Nibbled

    • I know! Every nibble I thought “I’m not selling this now…”
      I also worried that I’d go over the line while enlarging the openings and wreck the sides. One can’t actually see where the nibbler is going to nibble – so I took tiny bites and snuck upon my marks.
      But starting with the brass model saved me a lot of grief. And I suspect everybody who wants an S scale SP baggage car already has one…

    • Plus, no more nervy than scratchbuilding, I think: mistakes can happen at any time. I am trying to not let that thought paralyze my modelling…

  1. Very cool Trevor! And yes, very – um – brave. I’ve done something similar – though on a smaller scale – in hacking up a brass tender to modify it to a specific prototype. I’m currently hung up on how to do the little trim/molding/bead that one always sees at the top edges of a tender. So I’ll look forward to seeing how you restore mouldings/detail to the inside of the new openings you cut. Good Luck! 🙂


  2. Bravery seems to be a theme on my blog roll this morning. I doubt I’d ever be so brave as to take a nibbler to an (expensive) brass model, or — as on another blog this morning — to take a soldering iron to deform an (expensive) Tangent Scale Models gondola.

    • Moving out of one’s comfort zones is a great way – maybe the only way – to improve one’s modelling skills. Or, at least, one’s focus. The adage about measuring twice and cutting once really makes sense when working with an expensive model – regardless of the material in which it’s built. My work would be better if I adopted this same focus and care to everything I build for my layout…

  3. Looks like enlarged door openings came out great, a nibbler is prefect tool for this job, you should try a power one sometime!
    Are you using styrene for the door, sill, header and maybe 1/4 round for jambs?
    Projects out of the comfort zone are the best, have fun!
    Enjoyed “Dots and Dashes“.

    Joe Smith

    • Thanks Joe – and yes: I’ll be using styrene. (In fact, I already have – that’ll be the next blog post). Thanks also for the note about dots and dashes. Cheers!

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